New ways of providing energy to light and heat our homes are rarely out of the news. One of the key areas of development is renewable energy, and how to meet the increasingly challenging international targets for producing clean energy.

In May this year, Portugal hit a milestone, running the country for 107 hours straight on renewable energy – wind, solar and hydro-generated electricity.

Francisco Ferreira, President of Portugal’s ZERO System Sustainable Land Association, says the country was able to achieve the landmark through a combination of sustained investment in the industry since the beginning of the century and perfect weather conditions. “We aim to have 31% of our energy needs met by renewables by 2020 and are aiming for 100% renewable electricity between 2030-2040.”

Over the four days, from May 7th, Portugal managed to reduce its electricity carbon emissions to zero, saving 517.3k tons of CO2 as compared to generating the electricity from coal. Even the more energy efficient combined-cycle natural gas would have produced 216.1k tons of CO2.

Other energy efficient countries

The good news is that Portugal isn’t the only country hitting renewable energy landmarks:

• In the UK during the week of May 9th, no electricity was produced by coal for up to 12 hours at a time, which is believed to be the first time since 1882, when the first public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London. Solar power also produced more electricity than coal power for a 24-hour period for the first time during April 9/10.
• Denmark produced 140% of its electricity needs on July 9th last year from renewable energy and was able to export the rest to Norway, Germany and Sweden.
• Germany managed to produce 45.5 gigawatts of its 45.8 gigawatts demand for electricity from renewables on May 16th, with electricity prices turning negative several times that day.

Rising renewable stars

According to the UN, a record breaking $286bn was spent on renewable energy generation in 2015. So who’s leading the way?

• Morocco is building one of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plants on the edge of the Sahara desert. When fully operational, the Noor Ouarzazate power complex will produce enough energy for more than one million Moroccans, and also reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels by 2.5 million tons of oil.
• Bangladesh, is experiencing the world’s fastest expansion of solar energy. About 3.5 million homes – or 18 million Bangladeshis – now have electricity thanks to solar home systems.
• China is turning 800 primary and middle schools in Beijing into ‘sunshine schools’. Once the project is completed, the rooftops of these schools will be covered with 100 megawatts nameplate capacity to power classrooms for teachers and students.
• Mexico distributed almost 23 million energy saving light bulbs for free. This helped the more than 5.5 million families save up to 18% on their electricity bills, and prevents an estimated 1.4 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

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